5 Tips for Gardening to Prevent Injury
When spring finally pops its head out from under winter's blustery dominion, you can finally start making plans for your garden. While most tips for gardening focus on caring for the plants you want to grow, you should also make sure your green thumb doesn't cost you in medical bills or time away from work.
While gardening is therapeutic, preventing and managing back pain is as important as the care and attention your seeds need to sprout. And that doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Taking a few preventative steps can go a long way, and using simple tools to avoid stress or strain on your body will pay off when you don't have to spend a week on the couch trying to recuperate from a sore back.
Here's what to keep in mind.
1. Get Your Blood Flowing and Limber Up!
Just as you would before working out, it's important to get a good warm up before any physical task - gardening included. Take five to 10 minutes to stretch your back, legs and neck. Wake up your muscles by encouraging blood flow via a brisk walk around the block before getting to work in the yard.
2. Mind Your Posture
Be mindful of your posture while tending to your garden. If you lift heavy objects like bags of soil, use your legs and keep your back straight. Don't twist your back to turn, and keep the objects close to your body to avoid injury. If you're raking leaves or on your knees weeding the garden, be sure to not overreach as you could put strain on your back, arms or neck.
3. Use the Right Tools
There are many ergonomically designed tools that make gardening easier on your joints. Visit your local gardening supply or hardware store to find the right tools for you. You'll want to look for:
- Kneepads or a foam mat to help alleviate pressure on your knees
- Long-handled tools to prevent you from overextension
- Raised garden beds, pots, vertical gardens or tabletop gardens so you can avoid bending and kneeling for extended periods
- A wheelbarrow to guard against back injuries from moving heavy objects on your own
4. Stay Hydrated and Mind the Sun
As you work under the sun, be sure to keep yourself hydrated. Water is essential for muscle repair, muscle growth and can prevent delayed soreness. It helps carry nutrients and electrolytes to your organs and muscles, allowing your body to work efficiently. Purchase a water bottle to carry with you in the garden or even try a water bottle belt for runners - perfect for keeping your hands free. On a similar note, you'll want to protect your skin from the sun. Apply sunscreen before heading out and don't forget sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to keep rays at bay.
5. Listen to Your Body
If you're starting to feel sore or stiff, take a break and stretch. Try to change positions or tasks to break up repetitive motions since they can often lead to strain. Don't be afraid to stop for the day if your body is telling you to, but be sure to cool down by stretching and taking a short walk to help loosen up your muscles and joints. If your body is still feeling stiff, try taking a hot bath or shower to help you relax.
While gardening is a great hobby and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy nature, your body is the most important tool. These tips for gardening will help keep it healthy and safe!